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Director weekly highlights 11 December

Jane Simpson, Outreach

Date: 8 December 2020

It’s been a big week for First Nations. Indigenous students from the Yirrkala bilingual school in Arnhem Land have achieved a first in their community in qualifying for university. Former CoEDL Advisory Committee member Merriki Ganambarr-Stubbs is a principal at the school. Read the story in The Guardian here. And then, another first, at a Tri-Nations rugby match between Australia and Argentina on the 5th of December in Sydney, the national anthem was sung in Dharug as well as English, AND the Wallaby players had learned the Dharug lyrics and wore indigenous jerseys. Read the story in The Guardian here. Not to mention Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch winning the Prime Minister’s Literary award for “The Yield” which features a man making a dictionary of his language. 

And CoEDL people have been active in working with First Nations people. Read below about how CoEDL CI Caroline Jones and CoEDL alumnus Mark Richards have brought ChunkBank to life, in a CoEDL funded project. It’s an app for learning phrases in Indigenous languages. And also read about a new collection of resources for learning about Gamilaraay language and culture here, compiled by CoEDL affiliate Hilary Smith in partnership with Winanga-Li Child and Family Centre and John Giacon. 

A very important report came out this week: Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices): Securing Our Rights, Securing Our Future Report, Australian Human Rights Commission and June Oscar AO. It’s is a long report - Oscar and her team spoke with more than 2,294 First Nations girls and women, but a community guide is presented as well. As befits a human rights commission report it is an excellent resource on what internationally agreed rights there are relating to languages, as well as on what previous government reports have found. June Oscar was chair of the Kimberley Language Resource Centre and the Kimberley Interpreting Service, and so the report is a strong advocate for languages, the right to receive information in a language one understands, the right to use languages in education, and above all what languages mean to their speakers and their inheritors. 

End of the year is round the corner, Christmas parties are ramping up, with their COVID-safe taste-free, recycling-unfriendly individually wrapped snacks. So.. how about ditching the flavoured cardboard, and burning through your internet quota to binge-listen to the great array of talks recorded for the Australian Linguistics Society’s online conference and getting ready for next week’s experimental online discussion format. It’s fantastic to see how many CoEDLers are involved beginning with a public lecture by CoEDL Advisory Committee member Kate Burridge, ‘What’s good about bad language?”. Check out the program and you’ll see dozens of CoEDL papers, and workshops - both intellectual and professional development. 

It’s especially lovely to see the collaborations that have developed over the life of CoEDL - cross-node papers by doctoral students e.g.  Amanda Hamilton-Hollaway and Alexandra Marley comparing two different Aboriginal languages, cross CIs papers by e.g. Paola Escudero, Gloria Pino Escobar, Myra Luinge, John Hajek and Gillian Wigglesworth on pre-school language learning, cross-country collaboration by CoEDL members, alumni and affiliates, e.g. Ksenia Gnevsheva, James Grama, Chloé Diskin-Holdaway, Deborah Loakes and Katie Drager, summer-scholar-CI collaboration e.g. Renate Plehwe and Catherine Travis. And many more First Nations authors and speakers of Indigenous languages are represented: e.g Diyini Millie Lantjin, Parlun Rosaria Tipiloura, Mirrkun Miriam Bunduck, Tharrngka Sheila Tchinburrurr, Gawura Waṉambi, Joy Bulkanhawuy Dhamarrandji, Ellen Gapany, Corey Theatre, Jill Nganjmirra, Seraine Namundja, Brenda Muthamuluwuy, Ellen Gapany, Tracey Cameron, Priscilla Strasek, Kumalie Riley, Josephine Lardy and probably more that I’ve missed! No time for Netflix… 

The phrase of 2020 should be ‘it is what it is’ (forget Karen, iso, quarantini etc). So here’s hoping that 2021 will be ‘it is better than it was’ ...  Happy end/start of year, everyone, and may a refreshed me see invigorated youse in 2021! 


Jane Simpson 

Deputy Director 

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University